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Charities – fundraising in a multichannel world

By Steve Renshaw , Friday, April 26, 2013

Sitecore held a round table at its London offices for its customers working in the charity and non-profit sector to discover the current issues affecting charities and their use of digital channels.

Multichannel marketing is a key tenet of Sitecore, and we recognise that each industry and sector faces its own opportunities and challenges when it comes to targeting the right customer through the right channel at the right time, and of course with the right message.

The charity sector has two major challenges - competing for the public’s generosity, but also internal competition between different silos within the organisation, whether it is fundraising, events, volunteering, education or any number of other activities, each often having its own communications strategy and tools.

Sitecore recently conducted research across consumer surveys, opinion pieces, charity interviews and event presentations to gather an overview of the marketplace from last year and to look forward to what trends and changes are predicted over the coming months. The results made for interesting reading and reinforced our perception that having a single customer view and a unified multichannel marketing strategy is more important than ever for charities battling for a finite portfolio of time and money.

Getting inside an individual’s circle of trust through friends or family is by far the most effective method of raising a charity’s awareness, but this can only be done if you’re targeting them through a channel they trust and with a message they understand. Social media can work, but only as one piece of the puzzle. Did you know, for example, that 30% of donations were instigated from social media marketing, but over 60% of users still don’t trust it as a donation channel and only 5% of donations came directly from this source. Many charities use social media primarily to market their volunteering and event activities for precisely that reason, and accurate reporting is still a big hurdle.

Once a user is aware you exist, you then need to drive them through those stages of ‘comprehension and conviction’ by providing a clear and consistent voice across all your channels. Two thirds of visitors to charity websites are seeking information, so stating your mission, communicating visually and telling human stories is crucial to bringing them on this journey with you.

Once a user has donated to you, they expect something back - it is, after all, a transaction. They want to be able to find out how you’re spending their money, not just at the point of donation but throughout their life with you as a customer. In this connected world, if you are able to anticipate this and communicate to your user through the various channels and devices available to you, then these donors will convert to advocates and will place you firmly within their network’s circle of trust into the bargain.

But above all, what came across most was that people didn’t want to feel pestered once they were signed up to a charity. Nearly 60% of people said they felt bombarded by campaigns and appeals, a huge number. The phrase “don’t saturate me with suffering” was one that stuck in the mind. Another user said that they had donated a month of their weekends to fundraising for a charity, only to receive a campaign email a week later encouraging them to donate money as well.

We recently held a Charity Sector Roundtable for our Sitecore customers in the UK, to help facilitate group discussions about best practices and share ideas, not necessarily related to Sitecore but looking at the multichannel mix as a whole.

Whilst much of our research was already familiar to the people dealing with it every day, it was interesting to see that almost everyone was in the same position of trying to work out the governance and approach towards managing a single customer view and to develop a coherent multichannel marketing strategy that enabled them to target individuals with their portfolio of time and money most effectively - and to react quickly in times of need. Business change, ownership, metrics and of course technology are all pieces of the puzzle that most organisations are grappling with to reach this ‘digital nirvana’ of relevancy and develop lifetime customer relationships.

It will be interesting to see how the sector adjusts and adapts to the pace of technology and changing customer demands over the next year. By using the Sitecore Customer Engagement Platform, these organisations already have a step up on the competition. Tying this into a unified multichannel marketing strategy will remain their biggest challenge but also their biggest opportunity in the months to come, and Sitecore is incredibly privileged in be in a position to help drive this evolution.

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